• A woman smiling

      Florence Lin (Photo – Cheryl Cabot)

      Florence Lin has been named the City of San Gabriel’s “Outstanding Older American.” She was recently honored at the City Council meeting. Florence is the first Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) to receive this honor.

      By Cheryl Cabot

      Lin is not only highly regarded by the AAPI community but also by the entire city of San Gabriel for her selfless volunteering and her work at the Asian Youth Center. The Council chambers were crowded as admirers brought bouquets and waited to have their photo taken with Florence.

      Following the recognition at the City Council meeting, Lin hosted a dinner, where again, many from the AAPI community paid tribute to her.

      Florence emigrated from Taiwan to the United States with her family at 16 and attended Oregon State University where she received a B.S. Degree in Child Development and Home Economics.  While studying for her Master’s Degree in Education she met and married her husband, Randy, who was studying for his PhD. After completing his studies, Dr. Lin was offered a position at JPL in Pasadena, so they moved to Southern California, where they raised their two children, Dr. Katrina Lin Chang and Brian Lin. Dr. Randy Lin passed away 10 years ago.

      Florence started working for the Asian Youth Center in 2006. She started in Outreach, telling people about the government services available to them, such as Medical, Medicaid and food stamps. At that time, she used T.V., Facebook and Chinese media to connect with the underserved community. She became a media specialist and briefly left AYC to work at a computer company. After four years she returned to AYC as the after-school manager.

      A woman standing while being honored

      Florence Lin at City Hall (Photo – Cheryl Cabot)

      Teaching and volunteering are important to Florence. When the pandemic hit, she organized a Community Mobil Vaccination Clinic. She also worked with the San Gabriel Hope Lions Club to donate KN95 masks and hand sanitizers to San Gabriel residents. Voting and informing people, particularly Asian immigrants, how to register and vote is especially important to Florence.

      Register people to vote. It is very important. Many Chinese don’t care and say, ‘my vote doesn’t matter.’ But it does! Every single vote matters.

      Ten years ago Lin went to the Hawaii Supermarket on Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel. She talked to the manager and asked if she could set up a booth to register people to vote. She had a little table and long forms and wanted to help people register.

      “Every single person that passed by my booth, I stopped them and told them it was very important to get their vote out. ‘Your vote does matter and it will help you and your community.’ Many of them had lived here in the U.S. as citizens for years and never registered to vote. I said, ‘No, today, you are going to register!’  So, I got their information and helped them fill out the form so then they could vote.”

      Lin follows up with phone banking. She calls to make sure people will vote. Fluent in both Chinese and English she helps with translations to understand the ballots.  She stressed that she does not tell them who to vote for, but explains who is on the ballot for the different offices. Lin has also established a small WeChat group to help people understand the process of voting and remind them about deadlines for voting.

      At her core, Lin is a teacher, and she has recruited a cadre of high school volunteers, “Because I want to train them to become advocates and learn the process and become our future leaders.” She was also able to enlist the organization, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, to provide food for the students while they worked the phone banks.

      a woman holding flowers and surrounded by dignataries

      Florence Lin surrounded by San Gabriel Councilmembers, family and friends (Photo – Cheryl Lin)

      To date, Florence is responsible for registering 2,000 people over the past ten years.

      Recently she has established affordable connectivity programs where she helps new immigrants apply for low-cost tablets and internet connection. Once they have access to the internet, Lin then helps people upload their information to the federal government so they can apply for assistance if they qualify, as well as get an approval code to be able to work with the internet provider. The process can take up an hour, or sometimes days.

      Lin’s “service” is open 24/7. She admitted that although the program was started at AYC, people call her at home at all hours of the night and on weekends to get connectivity help.

      “I’m glad I could get so many people signed up to receive money from the federal government because there is no other Chinese organization that could help them. Language is another barrier for immigrants. When they sign up for government assistance they don’t know who to talk to and who they can trust,” Lin says. The AAPI community knows they can trust Florence Lin, San Gabriel’s Outstanding Older American.

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